The Very Best Reusable Bags for Sandwiches, Leftovers, and More
I cringe to think about how many single-use, zip-top plastic bags I’ve gone through in my lifetime. I used to stock at least four sizes — snack, sandwich, quart, and gallon — in my kitchen at all times. Whether I was packing up my kid’s lunch or prepping an elaborate picnic, I went through box after box of bags. But trashing them after such light use weighed on me (and Mother Earth). When the Kitchn asked me to take this deep dive into the wonderful world of reusable bags, I was more than happy to oblige. I knew there was a better, more sustainable way to pack up snacks, lunches, and leftovers — I just needed to find the absolute best products out there.
Of course there are a lot of reusable bags on offer. The market is saturated with different shapes, styles, colors, and sizes of reusable bags. I gathered up as many as I could find and ran them all through the same four tests to evaluate their seals, freeze-ability, microwave-ability, ability to protect fragile contents, and their general ease of use. After working with these bags for a month, I am confident that making the switch from single-use bags to reusable bags is possible and well-worth the investment.
The Best Reusable Bags
- Fill bag with blue-tinted water, zip to close, then shake upside down over a paper towel-lined tray to test the bag’s seal.
- Pack 10 raspberries in bag, toss it into a loaded tote and walk around the city (4 blocks) to assess how the bag protects fragile contents.
- Drop bag containing two graham crackers from counter height to see if they break; then, submerge bag in water for 10 seconds to look for moisture entry.
- Freeze 1 cup of fresh broccoli florets in bag; microwave (unsealed) bag to cook broccoli (if microwave-use is approved by the manufacturer).
Why You Should Trust Us
I officially swore off single-use plastic bags for this project and committed to stocking my own kitchen with the winners of this review. So, while I ran these tests mostly for you, reader, I was personally invested, too. Who am I, though? I’m a professional recipe developer and food writer; my work can be seen in Cook’s Country (magazine and television show), America’s Test Kitchen Kids cookbooks, Serious Eats, Hannaford’s Fresh magazine, and Kitchn.
What to Consider When Buying Reusable Bags
What shape/style bag is best for you?
Unlike their single-use plastic predecessors, you have options when it comes to the shape and style of your reusable bags. The three styles I tested in this lineup were flat, gusseted, and stand-up.
- Flat bags: Flat bags are very similar to single-use plastic bags in profile. They have two layers of (the same or different) material sealed on three sides. They lay flat and are generally easier to store than three-dimensional bags. Some flat bags are difficult to air-dry, as they generally don’t stand up on their own. (Fun fact: My favorite, the W&P Porter, IS able to hold itself up when inverted to air-dry after washing!)
- Gusseted bags: Gusseted bags have extra material on the bottom to expand their capacity and give them structure. Unlike flat bags, bags with gussets have depth. This can be helpful for protecting contents, loading and unloading, and inverting to air-dry. But there was a large array of effectiveness in the gusseted bags I tested; most were floppy and pretty useless.
- Stand-up bags: There are some innovative bags on the market, like the bowl shapes from Zip Top and Stasher, that stand up all on their own. Made from thick platinum silicone, they have a semi-rigid structure with a flat bottom. I found these stand-up bags to be the easiest to fill and air-dry. They may take up more room in your drawers when storing, but they can also be put to use as pantry and refrigerator organizers.
How do you want to use these bags?
Another question to ask yourself when shopping for reusable bags is, do you just want to store things in them or do you also want to cook in them? The ability for a bag and its contents to go from counter to freezer to microwave is appealing in theory, but I needed to see how useful this functionality was in practice. So, I froze fresh broccoli florets in each bag for a week, and then steamed them in the microwave (excluding the models that are not approved for microwave use). Some bags worked better than others. The best bags came out of the freezer with minimal ice crystal formation on the broccoli and neutral-smelling and -tasting steamed veg out of the microwave. The worst bags delivered freezer-burned broccoli and off-putting smells and flavors after cooking. Also, what sorts of things do you want to be able to store? Sandwiches? Snacks? Something else?
What material do you want the bags to be made out of?
When reusable bags first came out, there was a learning curve in identifying which materials were actually safe to use for food storage. After much trial and error, reputable brands can now confirm the absence of BPA, BPS, lead, latex, and phthalates (all believed to be potentially hazardous) from their products. The two most common materials used to make reusable bags are silicone and polyethylene vinyl acetate (PEVA).
- Silicone: Some benefits of silicone include sturdiness, structure, and heat resistance. This means you can often microwave or even sous vide in silicone bags. A less-than-stellar characteristic of silicone is that stray hairs, dust, and other tiny bits of debris cling to it. This doesn’t affect the functionality of the bag, but it can be a bit off-putting.
- PEVA: Bags made from PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate) are generally much lighter than silicone bags. They can be easier to store, are often less expensive, and don’t have that dust cling. However, PEVA bags generally can’t withstand heat exposure, so they are not for multi-use.
Another thing to consider with either silicone or PEVA bags is the color and opacity of the material. Many brands offer colorful options and even patterned designs on their bags. While the tinted and decorated bags can be visually attractive, I found the most useful models were fully transparent on at least one side. It’s important to me to be able to see the contents with clarity. But, of course, this is a personal preference. If you prefer some pizzazz, go for it!
How well do the bags close? Are they leak-proof?Are they easy to open?
Most of the bags I tested had zipper-style closures (one had silicone snaps). The zippers varied extensively in terms of thickness, material, and shape; some went straight across the top edge, while others curved around the top two corners. The distance between the zipper and the top of the bag, or the lip, also varied from product to product. I found that bags with a slightly bigger lip were easier to open and close. Some bags, like the Everspring, had a tab on one top edge, which really increased ease of use. The PEVA bags were slightly more difficult to open once frozen, while I found the silicone bags’ zippers were unaffected by temperature. Of course, leaks (or more importantly, the lack of leaks!) matter too.
How well do the bags protect what’s inside?
I never really expected my single-use plastic bags to protect the shape of their contents, but the thicker walls of reusable bags have that potential. I ran two tests to see how effective the bags were at keeping fragile contents safe. I loaded (notoriously squishable) raspberries into each reusable bag and took turns carrying them around town in a cloth tote. Each berry bag jostled against a water bottle, wallet, and book for four city blocks. Then, I evaluated the raspberry condition after the walk. Some bags kept the berries in pristine shape, some just slightly flattened the berries, and others delivered rustic jam in place of distinct berries.
For the second test, I placed two graham crackers in each bag and dropped them from counter height to see how broken the crackers would be upon impact. There was just one clean break, transforming the two graham cracker rectangles into four neat squares, in the most protective bags (the Zip Top and W&P). The graham crackers in the least protective bags broke into twelve pieces with crumbs gathering around the bag interiors.
How easy are the bags to clean?
I was pleasantly surprised that none of the bags stained or retained odor — way to go, reusable bags of 2022! Where I found the most variation was in drying them out after washing. If you don’t have a special drying rack for your bags, you need to think about how you are going to ensure they dry fully. The bags fell into two categories: those that could stand up on their own when inverted to dry, and those that could not. Having now washed and dried each bag five times (once before use and then again after each test), I am whole-heartedly a fan of the bags that can stand up on their own to dry out. Those that could not stand up while inverted ended up retaining moisture (which can harbor bacteria) and needed to be wiped out before I could use them again (or store them safely).
All but one of the bags I tested were approved for dishwasher-use. After running them through a cycle, I found a couple of the PEVA bags warped a bit in the heat. Most of the bags, however, survived the dishwasher just fine.
What We Look for in Reusable Bags
I judged all of the bags on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst and 5 being the best) through a course of four tests, evaluating them each on the following criteria:
- Performance: Did the seal have any leaks? Did the bag succeed in keeping the contents safe (raspberries) and dry (graham crackers)? How did it perform in the freezer and microwave?
- Ease of use: How easy was the bag to open and close, fill and empty?
- Cleanup: After washing and drying each bag by hand at least five times, and running them each through the dishwasher, was there any warping or any other damage? Were any bags difficult to clean? Did any bags retain odors or stains?
Best Leak-Proof Reusable Stand-Up Bags: Stasher Bowls
While Stasher has been a leader in the reusable bag game for a while, the company just got into, what they’re calling, reusable bowls. For our purposes, though, they’re really just stand-up bags that are easy to fill, pour from, cook in, and even eat out of. And they have Stasher’s signature patented Pinch-Loc seal that’s easy to open and reliably leakproof. In my testing, I didn’t see a single drop drip out. I don’t have a single bad thing to point out about these bowls/bags. Perfect score!
- Materials: 100% platinum silicone
- Approved Uses: Freezer-safe, microwave-safe, dishwasher-safe, and oven-safe up to 425ºF
- Performance: 5
- Ease of use: 5
- Cleanup: 5
Who it’s best for: Everyone! Yes, even people who have been on the fence about trying reusable bags. These bags are so easy to fill. You can reheat leftovers in them. And they will not leak, so they’re good for taking food to-go.
Good to know: These bowls come in bundles, a few different colors, and various sizes from a 1-cup option all the way up to an 8-cup option.
Best Reusable Stand-Up Bags: Zip Top
These innovative bags might be the pantry and refrigerator organizing tools of your dreams. Contents stay put and protected in this silicone stand-up bag. Never floppy, easy to fill, and self-supporting to air-dry, you can’t go wrong with Zip Top. It lost part of a point for a small leak from the top corner during the water test, but that’s not something you would notice unless you, too, are filling it with liquid and shaking it repeatedly upside-down.
- Materials: 100% platinum silicone
- Approved Uses: Freezer-safe, microwave-safe, dishwasher-safe
- Performance: 4.3
- Ease of use: 4.5
- Cleanup: 5.0
Who it’s best for: Anyone looking for bunch of durable silicone containers to use in their fridge, freezer, or pantry.
Good to know: Zip Top bags come in a few different bundles or can be bought separately. They come in five different still-see-through colors. There are also these super animal-themed ones for kids.
Best Reusable Flat Bags: W&P Porter
These W&P Porter bags aced every test I ran them through. The seals are completely leakproof and the simple design even impressively protected graham crackers when dropped from counter height. The bags are clear on one side, so you can have a crisp view of the contents, and a pleasant neutral opaque color on the other side, for a clean and sophisticated look. The bags are easy to clean and, even though they doesn’t have a gusset, they’re able to hold themselves up when inverted to air-dry after cleaning. The flat design makes them super easy to store; it will definitely become my new sandwich bag for daily lunch packing.
- Materials: 100% silicone
- Approved Uses: Dishwasher-safe, freezer-safe, microwave-safe, oven-safe, sous-vide
- Performance: 4.8
- Ease of use: 4.6
- Cleanup: 5.0
Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants to safely pack up sandwiches (and snacks) for on-the-go eating.
Good to know: The Porter bags come in various sizes and five colors: charcoal, blush, cream, mint, and slate.
Best Budget-Friendly Reusable Bags: rezip
Making the switch to reusable bags can be a pretty steep hit to the budget if you’re trying to really stock up. I tested a few brands of significantly more affordable bags and was pretty disappointed by most of them — but rezip was a happy surprise! These bags performed really well in just about every test. This set includes both flat and gusseted options. The seals were reliable, not letting any water out in the first test, nor letting any water in during the submerged graham cracker test. Thanks to their material (PEVA), they are super lightweight and don’t hold onto any debris (like stray hairs or dust).
- Materials: PEVA
- Approved Uses: Dishwasher-safe, freezer-safe
- Performance: 4.0
- Ease of use: 4.7
- Cleanup: 4.5
Who it’s best for: Anyone looking to stock up on affordable, high-performing, lightweight, reusable bags.
Good to know: This bag is not approved for microwave use.
Kitchn’s Best List Promise
We will do our homework, going wildly in depth with our testing. But we’ll condense the info into easy, breezy summaries, so that you can see what we picked and why, and then move on with your life. Because we know you’re busy!
Do you have a question about reusable bags ovens? Let us know in the comments!